Jump on the Stray bus and discover the real New Zealand, with (almost) everything you could wish for. From the Far North to the very Far South, the Maximus Pass includes nearly the whole Stray travel network - leaving off the summer-only Beach Hopper. Want to do it all? Choose the Everywhere pass.
The pass route is a loop, which means you can start and finish anywhere you would like. We recommend at least 5 weeks to get the most out of your trip and to allow some time to hop-off and explore your favourite destinations for longer.
Scroll through the gallery below to see the kinds of the things you'll get up to on the Maximus Pass.
Our mission is to get you off the beaten track amongst authentic local culture and our experienced crew has chosen some incredible destinations so you can see more and do more! 'Strademark' Places are the places you're less likely to find in the guide book but the ones you'll be talking about long after the adventure has ended.
- Only Stray stay at Hahei beach, an idyllic spot in the Coromandel, within walking distance to Cathedral Cove.
- Spend two nights at Blue Duck Station, an award-winning conservation farm and get hands-on with some wilderness activities!
- Discover history and culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism at Lake Aniwhenua - it's also your chance to try a traditionally cooked hangi dinner.
- Stay beachfront on the golden sands at the edge of Abel Tasman National Park.
- See the stunning fiord of Milford Sound and stay at historic Gunn’s Camp.
- Stay at the base of New Zealand's highest mountain, Mount Cook/Aoraki
- Enter Middle Earth territory! Be surrounded by the breathtaking mountains and dense native bush, and have the chance to go white water rafting in Rangitata.
"Had the most amazing, fantastic 2 months travelling with Stray NZ, we had the best drivers who each went out of their way to ensure everyone is having the best time! I've seen so many off the beaten track places that I would have never visited (Blue Duck esp), met people who I now consider life long friends and have done activities I never would have thought of doing (Nevis bungee!!) I would highly recommend anyone travelling to New Zealand to go with stray...truly enjoyed myself so much that I have booked stray Asia! Thanks so so much Stray!!"
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Given the spontaneous nature of our trips and lack of control over New Zealand's weather(!), what we do each day might occasionally vary.
NB. The cost of accommodation is not included in your travel pass but under each day we have described our recommended accommodation, along with some free and paid activity suggestions.
Nau mai, haere mai (welcome)! Your Stray adventure kicks off in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. We depart for the beautiful Bay of Islands, bound for the relaxed seaside town of Paihia often called the ‘gateway to the Bay.’ We stop en-route to visit the Parry Kauri Forest Park and hug some of the world’s mightiest trees, the native kauri, on our way to Paihia.
Gear up for a big day, departing early to make the trip to the top of the country. Don’t forget to pack lunch, water and some snacks to keep you going today. Travelling on a custom built coach you'll drive up 90 Mile Beach, an official public highway, to Te Paki Stream, where you'll learn the art of sand surfing on some of the biggest sand dunes in New Zealand. Our destination is Cape Reinga, where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans clash at the northernmost point of the country. Legend says it is also the departure point for Maori souls leaving New Zealand to return to their spiritual homeland of Hawaiki. The trip home includes a walk in a kauri forest and a stopover at Mangonui for a Kiwi classic dinner of fish 'n chips (pay on the day), before returning to Paihia in the evening.
NB. This day trip is operated by a local partner, so you cannot hop off the bus today. You can book/amend your preferred date in Stray Mate up until 11am the day before travel. After this time, any changes to your Cape Reinga Day Trip must be made directly with Fullers GreatSights at their Paihia waterfront office.
Enjoy a sleep in and spend the morning at your leisure. There’s time to do the fantastic half-day Hole in the Rock dolphin cruise around the Bay in the morning, or take this opportunity to walk to the nearby Haruru Falls or just hang out on the beach. Mid-afternoon we jump back on board the Stray bus, destined for the bright lights of Auckland, where there are still plenty of exciting activities to do if you have a free day or two.
We depart Auckland and head south, travelling to the Coromandel Peninsula via the old colonial town of Thames. Renowned for its natural beauty and pristine swimming beaches, the Coromandel Peninsula has plenty to offer the active traveller, but is also a great place to kick back and relax in a pretty coastal setting. On arrival into Hahei, a small beachside village, we’ll get settled into our accommodation before heading over to Hot Water Beach (tidal dependent). This is an absolute ‘must do’ experience where you can dig your own natural spa bath in the sand and soak up the Coromandel surrounds. Tonight you have the option to join a group dinner for a classic Kiwi BBQ.
Today you have a full free day to embrace the laid back lifestyle that makes this area such a popular NZ holiday destination. Make the most of this special place by taking a scenic walk or kayak to the nearby Cathedral Cove, a paradise-like beach that you might recognize from one of the Narnia films. If you prefer water sports, the coast off Hahei is part of the protected Te-Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, which is a prime place to take a guided coastal boat tour or fully immerse yourself with a snorkelling excursion.
We leave Hahei early travelling through to Paeroa, home of New Zealand’s oldest and largest soft drinks company – L&P, where we’ll stop for breakfast. Our drive today will take us through the Waikato region, known for its many dairy farms, rolling hills and the mighty Waikato River (the largest river in New Zealand). This afternoon you’ll have free time to explore the sights and smells of Rotorua.
Often labelled the adventure capital of the North Island, you have a full free day in Rotorua to discover an area rich in Maori heritage, adventure activities and bubbling geothermal wonders. There are plenty of exciting local activities to get the adrenaline pumping, such as whitewater rafting, ziplining through native bush, zorbing or a truly unique guided jet boat adventure up to bath in a hot waterfall. The choice is yours!
You can make this a real 10 out of 10 morning by signing up to a guided tour through the world famous Hobbiton Movie Set. If this is not for you, enjoy a sleep in or squeeze in one last activity on your list. From here our journey ventures right off the beaten track into the remote area of Lake Aniwhenua - voted one of Stray’s top overnight stops! As we drive into the Kaingaroa Forest we will meet up with a respected Maori guide who will lead the group to a sacred archaeological site to view NZ’s oldest Maori rock carvings. Tonight, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Maori traditions, including the entertaining stick games traditionally used to teach hand-eye coordination, as well as how to prepare a ‘Hangi’, a sumptuous feast cooked underground. Sign up for one of the cultural activities on offer or simply enjoy a sunset drink at the Taniwha Bar overlooking the lake. For those visiting during school term, you will be both touched and inspired as you learn about a local community program in which Stray passengers are actively participating.
This ‘Strademark’ experience is $89pp and includes:
- 1 night’s accommodation at the comfortable Kohutapu Lodge
- 1 x Hangi dinner, 1x dessert and 1x continental breakfast
- Guided tour to sacred Maori rock carvings
- Introduction to the Murupara area, its people, history and challenges
- Learn traditional Maori stick games
- Participation in a local community program (school term only)
This ‘Strademark’ overnight experience is optional, but in our opinion, it's an absolute must do!
After breakfast we’ll make a special visit to the local school to deliver packed lunches for kids that often go without and participate in a beneficial program aimed at driving cross-cultural education in an otherwise isolated part of NZ (dependent on school timetable). Then it’s on to Taupo to visit the mighty Huka Falls. The brave hearted can opt to plunge from a plane on an adrenaline fuelled skydive over NZ’s largest lake! Our destination this evening is often rated by passengers as one of Stray’s #1 overnight stops and you’ll soon see why. Located in Whakahoro, one of the most remote parts of the North Island, Blue Duck Station is a sprawling 7,200 acre high country farm that is both a working station and an environmental conservation leader. On arrival, we will settle in to learn a little about daily life at Blue Duck, then relax and chill out around an evening fire.
Today is yours to fully explore this truly incredible location. Jump on a 4WD and travel up farm roads, over hilly peaks and through native bush to learn about the station’s interesting settlement history and their current conservation efforts. Don your cowboy hat and explore the farm by horseback or kayak on the river through bush clad valleys and lush green hills. Visit the Kaiwhakauka waterfall or assist with the farm’s pest control efforts and bring back tonight’s dinner. It doesn’t matter which option you choose, just get outdoors and enjoy all that Blue Duck has to offer!
We’ll be up at the crack of dawn for an early departure to make our way to the UNESCO Dual World Heritage Site, Tongariro National Park. Today you get the chance to tick off one of the most popular activities in New Zealand by hiking the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered one of the top one-day walks in the world. This 19km walk will take you across a rocky plateau with Mars-like vistas, dramatic volcanic peaks (including the real ‘Mt Doom’), craters and turquoise lakes that you’ll remember for a lifetime. The Crossing is open to walk year round (alpine gear and guide are required in winter), but subject to the weather conditions. Ensure you pack a day pack with plenty of supplies and clothing for all conditions. If the weather prevents you from doing the Crossing, there are a couple shorter walks in the area, as well as bike tracks that are well worth doing. Tonight we will stay in a homely historic Nurses Home in Raetihi, with friendly farm animals, a pamper room and spa bath with mountain views to enjoy at the end of an active day.
This morning we travel towards the bottom of the North Island via the rural towns of Ohakune, Taihape and Bulls. Today is mostly an express day to get to Wellington, our capital city and home to New Zealand’s parliament and the iconic Beehive government building. Also known as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ thanks to Lonely Planet, Wellington is a great place to check out the lively arts, craft beer and café culture scenes or do some shopping. The afternoon is yours to explore the sights, and we recommend wandering down Oriental Parade or viewing the excellent exhibits on display at Te Papa National Museum.
We catch an early Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island where you meet the Stray bus in Picton. Once on the bus, we’ll cruise through the world famous Marlborough vineyard area and, depending on the group, we may stop for a wine tasting to sample the region’s specialty Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We make a supermarket stop in Motueka to stock up on supplies for the next couple days and then make our way to our amazing overnight destination Marahau, right on the edge of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park.
With a full day at your leisure, don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore this stunning, coastal national park on foot, by sea or from the air. Abel Tasman is famous for being one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand and, as home to one of NZ’s Great Walks, is a popular place to hop off for hiking enthusiasts. Even those short on time can still use this free day to hike, kayak, sail or take a water taxi to get a taste of the park’s natural golden sand beaches and brilliant blue waters.
Buckle up for a awesome day driving down the incredibly scenic ‘wild’ West Coast, an area known for its untamed beaches and spectacular rainforest. We’ll pass through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was labelled one of the top ten drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We’ll take a walk along the craggy cliffs at Cape Foulwind to view the seal colony before continuing further down the coast to the geographic wonder of Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Here we’ll take a walk around these unique limestone rock formations and stop for a bite of lunch. Our next stop is the historic gold mining town of Greymouth to collect passengers connecting from Christchurch. From here we’ll make one last stop via Hokitika (the best place to buy ‘Pounami’, a native greenstone) before continuing onto the quaint township of Franz Josef, home of the mighty Franz Josef Glacier where we’ll spend the next two nights.
Enjoy a free day to get out and experience the Franz Josef Glacier, an iconic highlight of the West Coast. The best way to navigate the maze of ice and explore the incredible landscape on the Franz Josef Glacier is with a guided tour, which consistently ranks as a favourite activity amongst Stray travellers. The most popular trip features a short heli-hop onto the glacier with a guided educational tour on the ice and includes entry to the hot pools afterwards. Other options include visiting the glacial terminal face for some spectacular photos or doing one of the many excellent bush hikes in the region.
It’s time to leave the West Coast behind. We stop in the morning for pick-ups at Fox Glacier before heading to the amazing mirror-like Lake Matheson to stretch our legs with a short walk. Then, we’ll travel inland through the mountainous Haast Pass and Makarora towards Wanaka. This is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever do and we’ll stop for plenty of photo ops along the way as we drive from rainforests to mountains, through beech forest and past great lakes. We’ll pass by the beautiful Lake Hawea and arrive in Wanaka late-afternoon in time to enjoy this picturesque lakeside town.
Kick start your day with a brisk walk up Mt Iron, an early morning skydive or learn to fly a stunt plane over Wanaka. At mid-morning we’ll pack up and make our way to Queenstown, known in New Zealand as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ and the spiritual home of bungy jumping. We stop on our way into town at Kawarau Bridge, the first commercial bungy jumping site in the world, for your chance to take the big leap of faith. Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge!) night out with plenty of excellent restaurants, pubs and live music to check out.
You need at least one free day in Queenstown to make the most of the wide range of activities on offer. With a buzzy night life, beautiful mountain scenery and an exciting outdoor lifestyle, it’s easy to understand why Stray passengers often hop off here to spend extra time exploring. Options include: bungy or swing, zipline tours, canyoning, jet boating, skiing, skydiving, local bush walks, or just enjoy the stunning scenery and do nothing.
Today you are in for a treat. It’s an early start as make our way to Milford Sound, one of NZ’s most famous destinations, sometimes referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. You won’t want to nap on this leg of the journey as we drive past Lake Wakatipu and watch the landscape change from farmland to mountains, glacier carved valleys and fiords. There is time to do an afternoon boat cruise around Milford Sound to soak up this untouched world. Known for its rich marine ecology, it’s likely you’ll spot a few wild dolphins, seals and penguins. Next, we head for our unique Stray overnight stop, Gunn’s Camp, located in the solitude of Hollyford Valley. There’s no better place to enjoy an evening under the stars, spot glow-worms in the bush and listen out for kiwi bird calls in the night.
We start the morning with a short riverside stroll through beech forest on the Viewing Gantry walk. Fiordland is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Te Wahipounamu (which incorporates four national parks including Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Westland and Fiordland) and you’ll understand why as you marvel at the spectacular surrounding landscape. This afternoon we travel further south via Te Anau to Invercargill and on to Bluff, where you can catch a ferry to Stewart Island. NZ’s third largest island, Stewart Island, has an abundance of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, such as fishing, kayaking, diving, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill.
For those who stayed overnight on Stewart Island, this morning is free for you to explore, meet the locals, go fishing or enjoy some of the walks before catching an afternoon ferry back to the mainland. Those in Invercargill will have the option to visit Demolition World (a world entirely constructed from demolished buildings and recycled items), race your bus mates around a go-karting track or walk up to the Bluff Hill lookout before reuniting with the island-goers for an express journey back to Queenstown.
Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie Country and past picturesque Lake Pukaki on the way to our amazing stop at the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook. We arrive in the early afternoon with time to do a 4WD & Argo Tour, check out the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre or do one of the many great short walks in the park. If you want to hop off the bus for a few days there are some incredible longer walks you can do (we’d recommend leaving climbing Mt Cook to the experienced mountaineers though).
Leaving Mt Cook we make our way through a landscape made famous in the Lord of the Rings films. We make a stop at turquoise Lake Tekapo for a photo op before heading through Geraldine to get to our overnight stop in Rangitata Peel Forest. Arriving in the afternoon, there is plenty of time for thrill seekers to raft the top notch white water on the Rangitata River. Tonight spend the night in one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations, a great place to get outdoors, go horse trekking or wander through the native bush of Peel Forest.
*Winter only: We stay longer in Tekapo for ice skating, snow tubing and visiting the relaxing hot springs.
This morning, you will have the opportunity to sign up to a top-notch grade 5 white water rafting experience on Rangitata River under the foot of the Southern Alps or to explore the stunning Peel Forest scenery on horseback. Tonight, we’ll stay in Christchurch - a city where old meets new, as an enormous rebuild continues following the devastating 2011 Earthquake. You will find some of New Zealand’s most modern architecture nestled next to some of our oldest buildings. Wander the city streets and laneways to discover creative street art intended to bring cheer and colour to a city once buried in rubble. Spend your afternoon exploring the city or getting involved in one of the activities on offer.
We depart early this morning for a beautiful drive up the coast to Kaikoura. Arriving in Kaikoura around midday, you will have the afternoon free for activities to experience the incredible marine world just off shore. Get out on the water and experience one of Kaikoura’s famous dolphin and whale spotting tours, see seals sitting right beside the road at Goose Bay or wander around the peninsula and check out the breathtaking views from the lookout.
Leaving Kaikoura in the morning we wind our way up the rugged coastal roads towards the top of the South Island. For those that choose to hop off in the port town of Picton, check out the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk and take advantage of the free fishing gear and pushbikes at the Picton accommodation. Those heading to Wellington will catch the afternoon Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait (from Picton to Wellington). The evening in Wellington is free so why not explore this funky town’s nightlife at any of the bars and restaurants along Cuba Street.
We depart in the early morning. This is an express day via Raetihi heading back to the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland. For those who may have missed out on hiking the Tongariro Crossing, you have the option to hop off in National Park and try again. With an early evening arrival, there’s still time to wander the streets of Auckland, visit the Viaduct, do some souvenir shopping or hang out with new friends and share stories about your recent adventures. If you are hanging around Auckland for another day or two, don’t miss your chance to jump off the Harbour Bridge or Sky Tower, skydive, or take a wildlife cruise around the Hauraki Gulf. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
The days and times shown below are for the current season. For future seasons, please refer to our Bus Timetables page.
Timetables are subject to change but our team will email you if this happens whilst you are travelling. Your online booking account will also show confirmed departure times.
Auckland to Paihia
|Whangarei - Info Centre (Depart)||11:00||11:00||11:00||11:00||11:00|
Paihia to Cape Reinga and back
Paihia to Auckland
|Whangarei - Info Centre (Depart)||15:00||15:00||15:00||15:00||15:00|
Auckland to Hahei
|Hahei (Non-Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Hahei to Rotorua
|Rotorua (Non-Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua
|Lake Aniwhenua (Arrive)||15:30||15:30||15:30||15:30|
Lake Aniwhenua to Blue Duck Station
|Lake Aniwhenua (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30||08:30|
|Blue Duck Station (Arrive)||17:00||17:00||17:00||17:00|
Blue Duck Station
|Whakahoro (Non-Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Blue Duck Station to Raetihi
|Blue Duck Station (Depart)||06:30||06:30||06:30||06:30|
Raetihi to Wellington
Wellington to Marahau (Abel Tasman)
|Wellington - Ferry Terminal (Depart)||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00|
|Picton - Ferry Terminal (Depart)||12:00||12:00||12:00||12:00|
|Marahau - Abel Tasman National Park (Arrive)||18:00||18:00||18:00||18:00|
Marahau (Abel Tasman)
|Marahau (Abel Tasman) (Non Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Marahau (Abel Tasman) to Franz Josef
|Marahau (Abel Tasman) (Depart)||07:00||07:00||07:00||07:00|
|Franz Josef (Arrive)||18:00||18:00||18:00||18:00|
|Franz Josef (Non Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Franz Josef to Wanaka
|Franz Josef (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30||08:30|
|Fox Glacier (Depart)||09:00||09:00||09:00||09:00|
Wanaka to Queenstown
|Queenstown (Non-Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Queenstown to Gunn's Camp
|Te Anau (Arrive)||12:00||12:00|
|Gunn’s Camp (Arrive)||18:00||18:00|
Gunn's Camp to Invercargill/Stewart Island
|Gunn’s Camp (Depart)||08:30||08:30|
|Te Anau (Depart)||11:30||11:30|
|Bluff Wharf (for ferry) (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
Invercargill/Stewart Island to Queenstown
|Bluff Wharf (Depart)||16:30||16:30|
Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
|Mt Cook (Arrive)||13:30||13:30||13:30||13:30|
Mt Cook to Rangitata
|Mt Cook (Depart)||10:00||10:00||10:00||10:00|
Rangitata to Christchurch
Christchurch to Kaikoura
Kaikoura (via Picton) to Wellington
|Bluebridge Ferry (to Wellington) (Depart)||14:00||14:00||14:00||14:00|
Wellington (via Raetihi) to Auckland
How It Works
Stray's operates a private transport network using comfortable air conditioned 24 - 48 seater buses. The buses are driven by qualified, knowledgeable Driver Guides who will lead you on a true adventure around our carefully thought out route, offering the mix of iconic 'hot spots' and super special 'off the beaten track' destinations we refer to as STRADEMARK places.
Best of all you have total freedom to hop on and off the bus at destinations along the way so you can spend more time in the places you love.
How do you hop on and off the bus?
‘Hop off’ the bus anywhere along the route, even places in between the designated stops. Either plan to hop off in advance or do it spur of the moment – it’s up to you!
To hop back on, simply book your next travel date and pickup location through Stray Mate, your online Trip Manager (you'll receive log in info after you've booked).
The buses run on a regular timetable with multiple departures a week so you can plan ahead too.
Your pass is valid for up to 12 months from your first day of travel, meaning you can hop on and off as often as you like for up to a year!
Short on time?
What about accommodation?
At all of Stray's overnight stops along the route, you'll have a dorm bed reserved at our preferred accommodation. Simply book via the Stray Mate app. It's that easy.If you choose to hop-off and stay a few nights, you can book that via the app too.
What activities can I do?There are over 150+ activities on offer! Whether you are a hiker, a biker, a Lord of the Rings fan or an adrenaline junkie you can start getting inspired by checking out our comprehensive Destination Guides.
Who travels with Stray?
Our travellers are an energetic outgoing crowd who share a common objective: to have a great time! Most are aged between 18 - 30 although we have no maximum age because we believe age doesn't matter - it's more about having a thirst for adventure! We get a wide range of nationalities from all over the world with the majority from UK, Europe and America. 75% of our travellers are travelling solo and some travel as part of a couple or group of friends.